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What is the difference between senior living and skilled nursing?


Difference Between Senior Living and Skilled Nursing

When you have an aging loved one who can no longer receive home care, either after an incident or because their overall health is declining, two senior care options you might consider are skilled nursing facilities (also called nursing homes) or senior living communities (also called retirement communities). Though senior living and skilled nursing are terms that are often used interchangeably, they represent different services.

Skilled Nursing Services

A stay in a skilled nursing facility is akin to a hospital stay. Patients require help with more than three daily tasks and usually need skilled health care such as feeding tubes, intravenous services, ventilators, and wound care (like bed sores). It is often temporary, with the goal of rehabilitation and then moving a patient to assisted living or back home. A long-term nursing home stay may be required if significant medical care is required.

Senior Living Services

While skilled nursing is a medical setting, senior living is a residential setting focused on providing older adults a healthy social environment with a calendar full of life enrichment activities, exercise classes, and family events. Retirement communities may offer several levels of personalized care including independent living, assisted living and memory care.

Assisted living residents may require help with basic first aid, transfers, and the activities of daily living (adls) including bathing, dressing and medication management. Assisted living facilities provide centralized dining rooms and large common areas to offer unlimited social opportunities and help residents feel a sense of community. Transportation is often available so that those who longer drive can still be active in the community and attend church services, appointments, and other outings.

Assisted Living vs Skilled Nursing

Here are some of the ways assisted living typically differs from skilled nursing so you can make the best choice for your loved one’s care needs:

Assisted Living Communities

  • Residential atmosphere

  • Do not have patients but rather "residents" of their own community

  • Provide 24-hour supervision and nursing assistance as required

  • Private apartments are available and residents can bring their own belongings and furnishings

  • Meals, utilities, maintenance, and light housing is included in the monthly rent

  • Provide scheduled social activities and outings but residents also have the freedom to set their own schedule

  • Goal is to maintain independence with supportive care and assistance.

Skilled Nursing Facilities

  • Medical atmosphere with registered nurse staffing required

  • Residents are referred to as "patients or "clients"

  • Provide 24-hour supervision and specialized nursing services full time

  • Patients typically have minimal privacy and often live in shared rooms

  • Meals and housekeeping provided

  • Schedules are usually predetermined

  • Goal is to provide on-site rehabilitation for those who can’t be cared for in a home environment.

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Is it time to speak to a senior living advisor about your care options? Contact us today.

Senior Services of America


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